Thursday, 16 May 2013
The Thrill of the hunt
I recently discovered something about my Dad I didn’t know, as a child he was a stamp collector. Not a ‘get a stamp stick it in a drawer’ type collector, as a child he was an obsessive, meticulous collector. He would carefully steam a stamp off an envelope, mount it and then hand write a little piece about its history. He found his old collection when clearing out a loft prior to moving house – it was an impressive haul. Literally thousands of stamps mounted on hundreds of pages. I began to think, why would someone, specifically my Dad, collect stamps? They had no practical use and you couldn’t really admire the art for too long as they were the size of, well, a postage stamp. Historically of course they are fascinating; some coming from countries that now don’t have the same name, or don’t even exist. However at the time, they wouldn’t have this historical charm, so why did Dad spend so long collecting them? The answer lies in the question: He spent so long collecting them for the thrill of collecting them. A few months ago I may not have been able to reach this conclusion but having started this Snes collection I understand. I can see the appeal of actually gathering something, as well as the enjoyment I get from owning it (and writing about it).
I thought the hunt for a game would be a means to an end – something I did to get the games I wanted. But I actually enjoy it, so much so my wife has even said it seems I’m getting addicted to buying games on eBay. There’s something thrilling about going online and seeing what’s been newly listed and how much people think certain games are worth. The excitement is palpable when you see something rare under priced, hidden behind a bad description or vague title. As I know I’m certainly not alone in this mission to hoard old games, there’s even a smug satisfaction that I have seen what others haven’t. I’ll admit it’s a challenge to be restrained when it comes to bidding and I’m pleased I have set mental limits for each game I want and a budget for the month. I defy anyone who uses eBay and claims they haven’t been tempted to just keep bidding higher and higher for something, just to win it after you’ve spent a week watching it and this is why I try to only search for ‘Buy It Nows’. These are after all the listings the snipers can’t ruin and where eagled eyed users (with limited budgets) reign supreme. Then the joy comes from anticipation – will a game I’ve bought be waiting for me at home when I get back from work? Will it look as good as it did in the picture and has it have survived the journey?
When I was younger and used to play these games there was a ritual that I would unconsciously go through. I would take the box off the shelf and remove the game by trying to avoid pulling in the middle of the flap as that invariably damaged the box. I then had to do the ‘cartridge blow’ which I suspect did nothing but get the game covered in spit, and push it into the Super Nintendo. This was all part of the game playing experience even before uncoiling the control pad and pressing start. This long standing ritual is why I wanted the games I bought to be in boxes, (even if ironically I would then go on to play many of the games on emulation on a train!) But now there is a second ritual that precedes this first one. It’s the excitement I get from taking a game out of the jiffy bag. It’s the fun of looking at the box and the instructions. Then the joy found in removing any old price stickers or frowning at random passwords that have been written in the full colour manuals. It’s the pleasure of constructing the ‘Sentinel64’ box protector and sliding the game in. And finally it’s the satisfaction found when placing the game amongst my others and marvelling at my increasing collection. Who knew I would enjoy these mundane activities? In fact reading it back, I’m a little bit embarrassed that I’m admitting that I do enjoy them!
Admittedly this may all be because collecting is new to me and I only have a handful of games so far. Doing something new is exciting, but I wonder if that excitement fades. I’d hope not, but time will tell. For my Dad it did it seemed. As he flicked through his books of stamps, the pencil guide lines for the hand written notes vanished and the research went from paragraphs, to sentences, to just names of countries of origin. By the end of this collection, it was apparent that life had taken precedence over his commitment to the currency of postage. The stamps were just shoved in plastic wallets in a mass of colour and torn envelopes. However as he pointed out the expensive ones, or the rare ones, I’m sure I saw that enthusiastic collector coming through.
I’ve always thought of myself as a gamer rather than a collector, but evidently I’m both. Not that that’s a bad thing, it is however an unexpected thing. A pleasurable bi product of this pursuit and one I hope I’m not alone in having.